Monday, 18 May 2009

The malfunctioning goalkeepers

author: Gabriele Marcotti
source: The Times Online

date: 20 April 2009

One of the established truisms in football is that excellent goalkeeping is essential in knockout competitions. Over the course of a league season, goalkeeping performances can level themselves out, but in a cup format, a blunder or unbelievable save can mean the difference between advancement and elimination. Or so we thought . . .

In fact, the last eight of the Champions League this season would seem to suggest that the above is just a myth. There have been few outstanding performances by goalkeepers in the knockout phase (which may explain the unusually high number of goals scored).

First, one basic caveat: there is no objective, let alone statistical, method of measuring how good a goalkeeper is.

Edwin van der Sar, of Manchester United, was, of course, a great goalkeeper, but, at 38, is well past his best. José Manuel Reina, of Liverpool, and Petr Cech, of Chelsea, are both outstanding goalkeepers, but both made fairly crass blunders when their sides met at Stamford Bridge last week. And, in Cech’s case, it is probably fair to say this is his worst season since joining Chelsea in 2004.

Helton, the Porto goalkeeper, has a knack for making the odd spectacular blunder and, even when on form, seems average at best. Manuel Almunia, of Arsenal, is uncapped by Spain and, at 31, is in only his second season as a regular starter at the club, which probably suggests that he is not the second coming of Lev Yashin (Lukasz Fabianski, who came on when Almunia was injured in the first leg against Villarreal, has started a total of four Premier League games and the jury is still out, as evidenced by events on Saturday). Diego López, another uncapped Spaniard, became Villareal's regular goalkeeper only midway through last season, and had never before been a consistent top-flight starter, which, given that he’s 27, suggests that he is not exactly a prodigy.

Michael Rensing, Bayern Munich’s goalkeeper for much of the season, is also in his first year as a regular. But after conceding five goals against Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga he was dropped to the bench for the match against Barcelona, giving way to Hans-Jorg Butt, the veteran who had not been a full-time starter since early 2007. Butt does have international caps — three — but his last appearance for Germany was nearly six years ago, emphasising how he has declined.

Then there is Victor Valdés, a man destined to divide opinion. To some he is one of the best in the world, to others he belongs in Sunday League football. He has been Barcelona’s first-choice keeper for the past six years and, at 27, is entering the prime of his career. Yet, curiously, he has never been capped by Spain (largely because of the presence of Iker Casillas and Reina). It is safe to say that few would place him among a hypothetical global top ten of goalkeepers.

It is entirely possible that we are misreading these eight goalkeepers. After all, ’keepers are generally judged on highlights — decisive saves and big blunders — and, where there are none, reputation seems overwhelmingly important. You can stick Piers Morgan in the Manchester United goal and, if he doesn’t face a single shot, you’ll probably still believe that he is a rubbish goalkeeper. Put Casillas or Gianluigi Buffon in and you’ll go on thinking he’s one of the world’s best.

That said, it is safe to say that outstanding goalkeeping hasn’t played a big part thus far in the knockout phase of the 2008-09 Champions League. Which is not to say it won’t do so from here on in.

read the full and original article here

Read more:
Pinto only goalkeeper who will certainly stay
Barcelona calm about Valdes renewal
Barcelona keeps on scouting Diego Lopez
Do We Buy? Goalkeeper.


utility73 said...

Sorry but this is bullshit. Just take Valdés as example. He has his highs and lows but his performance in the Semis was the single most important factor to Barça overcoming Chelsea.

pep said...

Note that the article was written before the Chelsea tie...

Nameless and jobless said...

i am fully behind VV... now and forever... i would only change my mind if Iker jumps ship which is unlikely to happen... so keep VV until any youth player turns 24 or gud enuf to challenge VV...

Anonymous said...

I hate people who don't watch a high amount of matches per season, and still are critical against, say Valdes.

Yes, Valdes has had many blunders as a Barcelona keeper. Most people who don't watch many matches can't see the big picture off a players performance.
So, when they keep saying Valdes is a bad goalkeeper, they get this from a newspaper who use Valdes blunder as a headline.
They will say, oh again.

I've seen every Barca game except some early cup games this season, and Valdes have been very good, with a few blunders.
I also saw most of real madrids matches until Descember, and casillas had very many blunders, although he was also terrific in many games.

I guess people understand me when i say that many people judge Valdes too mutch from his blunders from earlier season, while casillas, which to me, until Descember was not that good in his performance compared to Valdes.

So everyone who don't watch games and are critical on a players performance, shoulden't open his mouth.

Areign said...

im gona say valdez is not a consistent keeper but he IS clutch. in every game that has mattered he has played well, making important saves and just being solid between the posts. i wonder if this seems to be because barca have made the games where he blundered not matter or because he actually is clutch?

JR said...

Areign, don't forget the knock-out tie against Liverpool, where he made a big mistake that gave an away goal to Liverpool.

That being said, I've had my doubts about Valdes on several occasion, but then he always does something to make me forgive him completely like that night in Paris and this season against Chelsea. For me he can definitely continue being our number 1.

His reflexes are second to none.

rObReV7 said...

Agreed, i do love VV in our goal. I think he is a great keeper, and i wouldn't really want anyone else. I love it when he proves these doubters wrong woth some great saves (which still seem to go unoticed?). Only thing i would say is that when balls are crossed in and headered towards goal, i wish he would try and stop it a bit more, instead of always watching it go past. Saying that, it is the defenders that should be clearing it, lol but still.....

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